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2021

Discussion in 'General Astronomy Chat' started by Mak the Night, Jan 1, 2022.

2021

Started by Mak the Night on Jan 1, 2022 at 10:25 AM

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  1. Mak the Night

    Mak the Night Well-Known Member

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    Last year was dominated by small telescopes. I used eight of my twelve functioning telescopes in 2021. One hundred and seventeen of the one hundred and forty sessions I managed last year were with small aperture, short tube refractors of 80mm or under.

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    I would often carry a 90mm or 102mm Maksutov out together with the lightweight Sky-Watcher AZ5 Deluxe mount. Effectively making one journey there and back for a single session. Early last year it suddenly dawned on me that this could also be achieved with a small short tube refractor. Why this particular revelation had hitherto taken so long to dawn on me remains a bit of a mystery.

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    The obvious choice was one of my modified ST80s. MCT’s are great lunar and planetary instruments but they lack the FOV of faster scopes. Attaining a wide enough exit pupil for rich field observing is quite difficult. With my 102mm SkyMax even a 40mm Plossl only yields a 3.1mm exit pupil, notwithstanding the limited field. Experiments with 25mm eyepieces combined with a reducer were not particularly encouraging either. An easily and rapidly deployed small rich field scope that could take advantage of the vagaries of the weather was an intriguing prospect.

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    On January the 21st, 2021, I ventured out with the Sky-Watcher ST80 carried in a small flight bag and as few accessories as I could get away with. This session basically set the precedent for the vast majority of my nocturnal excursions last year. The Moon, Mars and Uranus were grouped together in the south and Orion was steadily rising in the south east, so I had a good variety of objects to observe with the little achromat.

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    The ability to go out at a moment’s notice with a refractor and pack-up quickly at the end of the session was a bit of a eureka moment. This inevitably led to purchasing an ED doublet that would be as portable as the ST80. Early in the morning of February the 17th I got first light with my brand new Altair, f/6, 60 EDF. I was very impressed with this capable little short tube.

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    I originally intended to buy a Takahashi FS60, but the Altair was eminently more practical, had a better focuser, and could be deployed straight out of the box. Plus, it was considerably cheaper, and the Takahashi retailer was out of stock anyway. Either way, I had a wonderful wide angle view of Coma Berenices at 10x with a 36mm Baader Hyperion Aspheric.

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    I experimented with a different dovetail and X-Rings for a brief period of time.

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    However these shifted the centre of balance forward. I even tried to use the Altair with the Vixen Porta II/TL-130 combination but it was heavy to carry out in one go.

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    Last edited: Jan 1, 2022
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  2. Mak the Night

    Mak the Night Well-Known Member

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    One memorable evening was on the 25th of March when I took the 72ED ED DS Pro out with only orthoscopic eyepieces. I hadn’t quite collected all of the Takahashi ortho’s then so used a variety of Tak’s, Astro Hutech, Circle T and Kokusai EP’s. This ‘Orthofest’ was so successful and enjoyable I repeated it a couple of times.

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    April was a decent month and I got seventeen sessions overall. On the 28th I had first light with the 3x GSO ED Barlow. The Barlow turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and exhibited an excessive amount of chromatic aberration. I haven’t used it since. It might come in handy as a paperweight (or a DIY spectroscope lol).

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    On the 24th of May I got first light with the Orion 7~21mm zoom. I’m occasionally astounded to the point of being gobsmacked by certain new pieces of kit. The lightweight Orion zoom was one of these pieces.

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    For the money it gives a very sharp and bright image. It is excellent for lunar/planetary observing and splitting doubles. SvBony also market the same zoom.

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    On the 8th of June I had another revelatory brainwave. I realised I could take the 72ED out in the same manner as the ST80 and the 60 EDF.

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    Previously I’d taken it out in its supplied hard carrying case and mounted it on a Vixen Porta II/TL-130 combination.

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    This took at least two journeys. If I only used 1.25” accessories the 72ED could be as easy to set-up as the other two short tube refractors.

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    It also balances beautifully on the AZ5 with a 1.25” diagonal and eyepieces. It proved a little detrimental to the 60 EDF as the little Altair only got out half as many times afterwards. The EDF has S-FPL-53 glass, a Strehl to die for, and because of its rotating collar I can more easily use a 2” diagonal.

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    Its only real disadvantage is that it is just 60mm. Because of this I tend to use it only on nights of above average conditions.

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    On the 9th of July I had first light using the Starbase ‘Orthoscopic Plossls’ with the 72ED. These weren’t a resounding success although I wasn’t expecting much with an f/5.8 refractor. Later I achieved eight consecutive sessions with the 72ED during a spell of balmy arid July weather. The conditions were so dry that I could easily make out Barnard 78 (Pipe Bowl) as well as the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae.

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    On the 22nd I gave the Starbase another chance with my 102mm Sky-Watcher MCT. I still wasn’t overly impressed and they appeared to ghost frequently on bright objects. In an even later dedicated lunar session with them they displayed a lot of scatter in the 102mm SkyMax. Interestingly, the Orion zoom, which isn't edge-blacked, didn't show any scatter or ghosting at all.

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    I got a brief view of the Saturn opposition in August with the 102mm Maksutov. The later Jupiter opposition was also a bit of a disappointment. After industriously setting up my 127mm SkyMax, and waiting over an hour for it to reach thermal equilibrium, I only caught an ephemeral glimpse of the Jovian surface through dark manifesting clouds. Two days later I had a good hour observing Jupiter with the same scope which compensated nicely for the unsuccessful opposition session. I had a few more planetary sessions with the ‘Big Mak’. It was the largest aperture telescope I took out all year.

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    September was pretty eventful and I had another run of 72ED outings. In fact I had a spate of sessions between the 15th and the 24th only being clouded out on the 18th. On a humid 27th of September I witnessed the rare phenomenon of an Atlas V rocket de-orbit burn low in the north west. I got seventeen sessions in October and all but one were with the 72ED. November was more of a pick and mix with an even dozen of outings.

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    Six of these were with the 102mm SkyMax. On the 21st, as I initiated a lunar session with the SkyMax, I suffered a serious equipment malfunction problem with the AZ5 tripod. Luckily I had a spare AZ5 tripod to switch to. Later I discovered that the spreader had shifted on one of the legs and apparently I just had a screw loose, or something. After setting up the tripod once again the 102mm MCT was nicely cooled and I had a great session with the diminutive Orion zoom. The seeing was well above average and I had a memorable view of Messier A’s ejector rays.

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    I only managed three sessions in December. On the 6th I had a pretty decent night with the 72ED. On the 23rd I had a very enjoyable three and a half hour rich field session with the same scope. I finished the year more or less as I started, with a brief ST80 session.

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    All in all 2021 wasn’t a bad observing year. I had thirty seven more sessions in 2021 than in 2020. Albeit predominantly with small aperture short tube refractors. Compared to the start of the year I now have four complete grab and go ensembles that can be rapidly deployed combined with the AZ5 mount/tripod. These can individually be used depending on what I intend to observe and the overall seeing conditions and transparency.

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    I’ve also developed easier ways to set-up my two 102mm refractors and the 80ED DS Pro on the Vixen Porta II/TL-130. Unfortunately these bigger scopes were all either unused or underused in 2021.
     
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  3. Ed D

    Ed D Well-Known Member

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    Excellent posts about your 2021 experiences, well written with lots of nice pictures.

    I also share an affinity for small scopes, for the same reasons. Two scopes I sometimes regret selling were my AT72ED and my 5" Mak. I'm down to just three scopes: Tele Vue TV-85, iOptron 150mm Mak, and Skywatcher 10" Dob. It's the TV-85 that gets the most use, by a very wide margin.
     
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  4. Mak the Night

    Mak the Night Well-Known Member

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    Thanks ED. I would like to get my 102mm Starwave ED doublet out more this year. I just used 8x30 CZJ wide angle binoculars for many years. Interestingly, even a 60mm scope is 73.47x better than the naked eye.
     
  5. PXR-5

    PXR-5 Active Member

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    I'm surprised that the ED Barlow introduced CA, that's disappointing.
     
  6. Mak the Night

    Mak the Night Well-Known Member

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    It was disappointing. I didn't notice it in daylight tests. I've since discovered others had the same problem with it.

    https://astronomyconnect.com/forums/threads/gso-3x-ed-barlow.13084/

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    The 2x shorty is fine. The 2.5x 'apochromatic' is very good although it's more like 2.25x. The 5x isn't bad but can show a hint of false colour. The 2" 2x is excellent.
     
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  7. Ed D

    Ed D Well-Known Member

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    To this day I still have my GSO 2X Shorty Barlow. I agree that this little diamond in the rough is a good performer. What I use it for exclusively is attaching the lens cell to my planetary camera, an ASI290MC. In my 6" Mak it gives me a good, usable maximum ammount of magnification on planets when imaging.

    Ed D
     
  8. Mak the Night

    Mak the Night Well-Known Member

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    It's pretty useful. Well made and light too. Most GSO stuff is good. It's a pity about the 3x Barlow though. They really ought to fix the CA.
     

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